Scientist Are Really Smart?

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According to this story published in Reuters Health a few weeks ago, researchers in Italy discovered that an individual’s body fat determines need for weight loss.

“Measuring body fat, rather than body mass index (BMI), appears to more accurately identify people who need lifestyle interventions to lose weight, study findings suggest.”

Wow, that just blew my mind. Fat people are fat? It may be a good idea for them to lose some weight? No way! And here I thought scientists were wasting time performing studies that concluded with things we already knew. I guess the jokes on me.

In a related story: Amy Winehouse likes her crack.

Amy Winehouse

All kidding aside, I think it’s great that people are FINALLY catching on to the notion that the BMI is a complete farce and should not be used as a tool to categorize adults as “healthy” or “not healthy”. As Dr. Ottavia Colombo of the University of Pavia in Italy stated:

“The use of BMI alone does not discriminate between fat mass and fat-free mass, nor reflect the fat mass distribution.”

Colombo and colleagues recruited 23 men and 40 women, aged 20 to 65 years, to undergo body composition analysis in the Human Nutrition and Eating Disorders Research Centre at the university. The volunteers were healthy, but led sedentary lives and were not following a low-calorie diet.

Using the standard BMI, the study identified only 11% of the participants as needing strong recommendations to lose weight. Conversely, when waist circumference measurements were taken, 25% would need strong recommendations to lose weight.

In a nutshell, when used with an “average” population, the BMI tends to underestimate those people who would normally need to lose some weight to improve their health profile. Additionally it tells people who are 6-1, 145 lbs that they’re “normal” when in fact they need to eat.

Conversely, when BMI is used in a unique population such as elite athletes (the NFL for example), it OVER-estimates. A 5-9, 210 lb tailback (albeit with 11% body fat) would be considered “obese” according to the BMI chart. Heck, I’m 6-1 and 205 lbs and am considered “slightly overweight.” This despite the fact that my abs can deflect bullets and my arms have been registered as lethal weapons in 23 states. My case is still pending in Wyoming.

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